Barrett lay under the sand, concentrating on his breathing. Since he wouldn’t be able to dodge, he had to hope that the sand did its part. Lightning continued to strike the area around him- and even being under the surface some of it reached Barrett. He continued to cause it to flow through and around him in ways that were not harmful. It was only a minor use of stamina, and he thought he could keep going for quite some time.
Another needle came- he could barely sense it until it started penetrating through the sand, getting through about thirty centimeters before it stopped. That was enough to stab into him just slightly… if it had been on target. However, it was just off to the side. Another came, this time right for his heart. Barrett felt it pushing aside the sand as it rushed deeper and deeper striking his breastplate and… running out of momentum. The combination of distance and twenty centimeters of sand had robbed the needle of its power, even with an assassin’s energy adding to it. At least, it didn’t have enough to pierce the breastplate.
The weight of the sand pressed down on him. It had to be more than three hundred kilograms. That wasn’t an insignificant weight… but spread out over his whole body it was actually rather comforting, as if it was holding tightly onto him to keep him safe. Of course, he was the one who had made it do that, but he still felt secure. He continued to breathe through his little hopefully inconspicuous tube, waiting for the next attack… but none came.
He continued to hear thunder and lightning up above, but there was nothing else. Then lightning struck directly above him. It wasn’t any worse than being hit himself, but the area above him turned into glass. That also disturbed his little tunnel of air, and Barrett had to make a choice of when he would come out. He could hold his breath for a few minutes, even with his heart pumping quickly and the weight of sand pressing down on him. He could try to make another air tunnel, but he was not sure if he had enough mana remaining. He could use some more practice with magic in general, since he ran out of mana quickly… but it was also possibly better to just focus on other areas.
Then he found himself ripped out of the ground with the sound of shattering glass above him. He was grabbed by the neck and came face to face with… Master Hykel. “Hey Barrett. Nice hiding spot.”
“Thanks. It was kind of hard to deal with the attacks…”
Master Hykel nodded, “They were fifth or sixth tier, even with that distance you did well. Any poison?”
Barrett took stock of himself and shook his head, “Nothing that I haven’t become resistant to. Maybe they didn’t have time for more exotic poisons…”
“The lightning threw them off. Plus, they didn’t exactly have time to raid their storehouse as they left. They have to be Silver Blades.” Master Hykel sat down heavily, “I managed to drive them off, and they won’t be able to recover as fast as me. Just watch over me for a bit while I expel some of this poison, alright?”
Barrett nodded, taking guard. He wasn’t sure if he could spot them if they came back, but he could at least redirect the lightning… with himself. It only took a few minutes before Master Hykel spat out a few drops of black and milky green goop.
“That should be it. I managed to isolate it right away. Let’s go, we’ll eat on the road. For now, we’ll go your fastest pace.”
Barrett nodded, running down the mountain. Lightning wasn’t a big problem anymore- but of course this was just second tier lightning at most. The only real danger it posed was how much of it there was. A powerful lightning mage could still damage Barrett, but it would be less. In comparison, being almost burnt to nothing in a volcano had made Barrett much more resistant to heat- but there was always something hotter.
He wished his boots could help with the running, but they were more for short sprints. Thus, he had to rely on himself… sprinting as fast as he could. That was even faster downhill- and he had good enough balance to not have to worry about it, even as the wet sand tried to make him slip.
It had taken them a week to first get to the Lightning Mountains, but now they were traveling more quickly in the other direction. At a sustainable sprint, Barrett was going about five times as fast as he did walking- and his normal walking pace was already several times as fast as a non-cultivator.
Barrett didn’t focus on how fast he was running, only on maintaining the pace as much as he could. That involve careful breathing and remembering to drink water as necessary. In addition, they slowed slightly to eat every few hours. The whole time he was running, his lungs were burning and his muscles were growing ever more tired and sore. Just as Barrett was reaching the end of his berserk energy and his stamina- and his ability to quickly replenish it with food- a city came into view over the horizon. Or rather, the city came into view and it filled the horizon. Stredo was just that big.
On the way to Ogloni, they had only traveled eight hours out of the day, using the rest for training of various sorts. Because of that, a week of travel turned into something less than a day- though not much less than a day. Barrett estimated he had been running for about fifteen or twenty hours. Then he realized that if anyone was following them, they would have caught up long ago. “This was just more training, right?”
Master Hykel nodded, “After the first bit, they clearly weren’t coming. Perhaps they ran into trouble navigating around the lightning or are still resting their wounds. However, isn’t it more effective to train as if your life depended on it?”
Barrett sighed and nodded, “Or when it does depend on it. But that doesn’t make it fun.”